Australian snow pioneer Kieren Gaul has died at the age of 54.
A banker and ski racer turned ski guide, Gaul and his wife Paula founded Big Red Cats skiing in Canada’s British Columbia more than 20 years ago.
Big Red Cats went on to become one of the biggest cat skiing operations in North America.
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The family put the business up for sale in 2021, after Gaul was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2020.
Gaul, who was previously on the Australian national ski team, leaves behind three daughters — Sammie, Gaby and Fresia.
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Sammie — an Australian national alpine ski team member — shared the news of her father’s death via Instagram.
“Dad passed away peacefully while holding my hand and surrounded by family on a beautiful Pambula Beach morning,” she said.
“He was my mentor, best friend and the best dad I could ever ask for.
“I’ll love you forever and ever dad and I know that you’ll always be with me.”
Sammie Gaul (left) shared the news that her father Kieren Gaul (right) had died. Credit: Sammie Gaul/Instagram
Just a month earlier, Sammie had said she was postponing training and competing due to her father’s illness.
“I’ve made the decision to delay the start of my season to spend more quality time with my family in Aus (sic) as my dad goes through end-stage cancer,” she said at the time.
“It’s not the original plan I had in mind, but it feels like the right choice given the situation.
“My dad had a serious health scare and had to be flown up for an emergency surgery in Sydney, when we got there we thought it was time to say goodbye.”
As he battled cancer, Gaul wrote a memoir which was released earlier this year.
He described it as: “An inspiring non-stop adventure story. A business book. Also a story about dying, and the search for grace. This is a book about letting go of anger and fear and embracing love and hope.”
In his last Instagram post on November 5, Gaul said he was spending time with loved ones in southern NSW.
“So great,” he said. “So wonderful to spend time with friends. But tired to (my) core. The cancer is speeding up, but I am slowing down.”
Kieren Gaul is survived by his wife Paula Gaul and their three daughters — Sammie, Gaby and Fresia. Credit: Sammie Gaul/Instagram
Writer Rachael Oakes-Ash paid tribute to Gaul on LinkedIn, saying: “The snow world lost one of the best on Friday and so many of our hearts are broken.”
Labelling him a “seriously all-round good guy”, Oakes-Ash said Gaul “loved skiing and the great outdoors with the same deep fervour he had for his beloved Paula and his three girls of who he was so proud”.
“He was a focused, hard-working and generous entrepreneur who always had a glint in his eye and a cheeky smile to warm the hearts of everyone who spent time with him,” she said.
“His joy and wonder in the mountains was simply infectious.
“We could all learn something from Kieren’s relationship with the cancer that took his breath away mid-life.
“He was tireless in his research and understanding of colon cancer, courageous in his approach to every treatment he underwent. And open and honest with his struggle and the plethora of emotions and vulnerability that facing mortality brings.
“And he never, ever gave up on big-living, taking up ocean wing-foiling as a new sport for when he wasn’t in the mountains.
“Kieren’s openness helped others lean-in during the most confronting of times and allowed so many globally to walk beside him with love from near and far in his final months.”
Oakes-Ash then quoted a piece Gaul wrote in his final months: “I learned that hope is the way through fear and that chasing happiness is like trying to grab a handful of water, it will slip through your fingers, and that true happiness is a by-product of a life well lived.”
“You will be so greatly missed by so many, Kieren,” Oakes-Ash said.
“You gave and left so much love with grace and kindness and humour in your life well-lived.”